Air flow about the shuttle upon reentry. A computational fluid dynamics simulation.
Click on image for full size
Welcome Home Columbia!
News story originally written on July 18, 1997
The shuttle Columbia quietly returned to Earth Thurday, July 17. It carried with it substantial research on the topics of combustion and plant growth.
During the 16 day journey (6.2 million miles later!), the astronauts took turns setting 206 small fires in sealed chambers, 62 more than planned. They also ignited the weakest flame ever recorded- one that flickered at 1/50 the luminosity of a birthday candle! The hope is that these combustion experiments done in space will improve combustion process on Earth, which would reduce human-produced air pollution.
Cartoon character Popeye would have been content on this mission, as the Columbia astronauts grew spinach, clover and protein crystals during the mission. This served as preparation for the future international space station where residents will have to grow some of their own food.
"Columbia has performed almost flawlessly, " said Commander James Halsell Jr. Columbia did have a window dent about one-fifth of
an inch across caused by a tiny meteoroid. However, NASA's
oldest shuttle had few other items in its "problem log".
NASA mission manager Teresa Vanhooser said she wasn't disappointed that the research was overshadowed by news of the Mars Pathfinder and the crippled Mir. "I'm sure that when the papers come out in all the scientific journals that they'll get their due respect," she stated.
NASA's next shuttle flight is a research mission by Discovery in August.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist
specimens, and educational games
You might also be interested in:
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more
During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more
J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service has referred to forests as the "heart and lungs of the world." Forests reduce soil erosion, maintain water quality, contribute to atmospheric humidity and cloud...more
In late April through mid-May 2002, all five naked-eye planets are visible simultaneously in the night sky! This is includes Mercury which is generally very hard to see because of its proximity to the...more